UPS Inc. (NYSE: UPS) is adding another e-bike delivery pilot to its roster of cycling services, this one involving an electric-assist cargo trike that will deliver packages to the Portland State University campus.
The new project comes as the company and its competitors — including FedEx Corporation (NYSE: FDX)— are ramping up efforts to cut delivery costs and vehicle emissions.
UPS has launched e-bike and e-trike delivery programs in recent years in Pittsburgh, Seattle and Washington, D.C. The logistics giant now offers delivery on foot and by bike in more than 30 major cities worldwide, a spokesperson told FreightWaves.
The latest pilot, a partnership among UPS, PSU and the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation, seeks to replace one of two dedicated trucks that deliver packages within the university district with an electric-assist trike.
Starting this week, a UPS truck will drop off a container with four cargo pods on campus, which is in a congested downtown Portland neighborhood.
The trike operator will load one pod at a time and make deliveries from the staging area. At the end of the day, a UPS truck will retrieve the empty pods and bring them back to the warehouse.
UPS will use a Truck Trike designed by Portland-based Stites Design and manufactured by Silver Eagle Manufacturing. The vehicle can haul around 750 lbs. with its combination of flatbed and trailer.
Truck Trike founder Bill Stites told FreightWaves he has sold about 100 of the electric-assist vehicles since launching his company in 2010, at a cost of around $7,000 to $15,000 apiece.
Customers include Honda, Airbnb and the New York City bike share program.
Besides the sustainability benefits, Stites said, the e-bike is a good fit for congested urban areas where delivery trucks have trouble maneuvering.
Unlike trucks, e-bikes can circumvent traffic jams by slipping through back alleys where cars are not allowed. E-bikes can also park on the sidewalk instead of circling the block for a permitted parking space.
"It's really good for access," Stites said, "and of course, parking."
UPS, which started in Seattle in 1907 as a bicycle messenger company, doesn't have a timeline for additional e-bike pilots in the U.S., the spokesperson said.
"But many cities have approached us regarding similar projects and we look forward to working with those cities to find solutions to their delivery needs."